To the Editor:
Earlier this month, the first public draft of voluntary “next generation” science standards was released. As conversation about those draft standards takes off, it is imperative for those of us committed to empowering America’s youths to challenge ongoing attempts to institutionalize climate-change denial.
The conservative Heartland Institute’s plan to weave denial into American classrooms might be the most egregious example, but states such as Tennessee have passed or are considering laws that perpetuate myths that a bona fide climate-change “debate” exists.
Much like the industry-sponsored propaganda questioning tobacco’s connection to lung cancer, such efforts to deny climate change attempt to systematically confuse and spread misinformation. According to a 2010 paper published in Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, 97 percent of climate scientists agree that global warming exists and is caused by human activities.
History shows us that there is no greater force for good than an educated, passionate group of young Americans. Leading the world in innovation, however, requires youths to enter the workforce armed with accurate scientific data—including the consensus on human-generated climate change—and an awareness of the urgent need for energy independence.
The Alliance for Climate Education, or ACE, exists to explain the science behind climate change in a fun, interactive way. We outline the potential consequences, including damage to economic, social, and environmental systems worldwide, but we reinforce that real solutions exist. Neither ACE nor individual teachers and administrators who understand the importance of climate-change education can work in a vacuum, however. Success—a generation of young minds equipped with the knowledge and will to tackle climate-change solutions—requires collaboration across ideological, demographic, and regional lines.
We can start by prioritizing fact-based climate-change education in these new standards, while preventing attempts to confuse our youths with inaccurate information. In our schools, quality education, based on scientific consensus, must trump political agendas.
Mario E. Molina
Deputy Director Alliance for Climate Education
A version of this article appeared in the May 23, 2012 edition of Education Week as Students Need to Learn About Climate Change